ATHAME: (pronounced “a-thAM-ay” or “ATH-a-may”)
Many Witches own one or more ritual knives. These are commonly known as “athames” in Wiccan circles. In the Scottish traditions, the knife is called a “yag-dirk” and in Sax Wicca it is known as a “seax” (see-ax). As with all ritual tools, the athame is a very personal magickal item-one which you will want to take some care in obtaining. It should fit well and comfortably in your hand, for one thing. You certainly wouldn’t want it to go flying across the room while you are casting a circle. This type of occurrence could cause a drastic drop in the attendance level at your next circle!
Many Witches make their own blades or “personalize” purchased ones with runes, carvings and other symbols; all of which serve to blend the energy of the tool with their own magickal intentions. Modern Witchcraft books almost always state that the athame is a “black handled double edged iron blade.” You may call this model, “the classic’, if you like! But many other practitioners now use athames made from stainless steel, copper, silver and various other metals, or even carved stone. Some have family heirlooms, such as letter openers which serve the purpose. Some Witches never use a blade at all! So you can see, it is more important that the tool you choose suits you personally rather than reflect the latest fashion craze.
The athame can be used to cast the magick circle, call the “quarters” or elements, and is part of many an opening ritual, handfasting (wedding) or initiation rite. It is associated with the element of Fire and the South. It is customary in some traditions to have your blade given to you as a gift. Some Witches or ceremonial workers give their tools a magickal “name”. (This practice has become a common reference in many role playing games and fantasy novels.)
Almost all materials written state-and most Witches/Wiccans, with the possible exception of the Sax Wiccans, agree- that magickal tools should not be used for any other purpose than ritual work. Often the blade is left “dull” or unsharpened because of this. (Another blade, the “boleen”, with a white handle is sometimes used to harvest herbs or carve symbols, but not used for ritual work.) Some Witches will not let their tools be touched by anyone other than themselves. Some covens or working groups share common tools. It is, other than for those who are dedicated into a specific Tradition, what you are comfortable with.